I don't talk very much. That might come as a surprise to those of you who read what I write, considering how verbose I tend to be, but I really don't contribute very much to conversations. There's probably a whole bunch of reasons a shrink could come up with for this oddity in my character, but I have found my own list of reasons.
Most conversations I hear are people talking about things that just seem pointless and a waste of oxygen. I can't think of the number of times I've wanted to say something like, "Haven't you heard of global warming? Please stop contributing to the CO2 supply!" But of course I'm usually far too polite for that and if you put me in a social situation I can pretty much be guaranteed to be sitting by myself in a corner within half an hour.
Four magic words usually preclude me from 75% of most conversations: "I don't watch television." It's not that I don't have a television, because I do; in fact I even have 5.1 surround sound hooked up to it. It's just I don't have cable, a satellite dish, or even an antenna attached to the thing. My wife and I have a DVD player and a VCR and bring in exactly one channel, sort of, that we never watch.
Part of the reason is expense; we just have never been able to justify paying for something that neither of us is really that concerned about. Anyway there always seems like there's something I'd rather be doing then watching television or even watching movies these days.
I don't know if you've ever noticed how much conversation revolves around what people watch on television – maybe you only notice when you don't watch it and you don't have a clue what people are talking about. Sometimes it will even take me a while to figure out that the people under discussion in a conversation aren't real, but are characters from a television show.
The way they talk about the characters' lives, they sound like they know and care about them more than their own children. Sometimes it's a real effort not to say something: "Hey, they're fictional fucking characters, people." But I know they'd think I'm the strange one so I just drift off into a corner and sit and drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, and then make my excuses and go home early.
I suppose I could try and change the topic of conversation, but what do you do? "So how about third world debt relief?" Yeah right, that would go over real well – you try it sometime and see what happens and let me know, alright? I frankly don't have the energy any more to try and hold an intelligent conversation under those circumstances.
But then there's the other end of the spectrum, the half-baked intellectual complainers. By half-baked I'm referring to their intellectual development, not their level of intoxication in case you wondered. These are the people who can find a million other things to blame other than themselves for their screw-ups.
They've been misunderstood because of their being so special by everyone from their kindergarten teacher to the last woman who dumped their sorry ass. Unfortunately these usually are men, although I've noticed a disturbing trend among women recently to start holding conversations in the same manner.
If society would only give them a chance they would be doing so great, but they can't understand what this emphasis on doing anything is all about. Can't everybody see that we should all be grateful just to be allowed to bask in their wonderfulness? Quite frankly, give me an in depth analysis of Gilligan's Island any day of the week over trying to hold a conversation with that type of person.
But even they pale in comparison to the intellectual/philosophical/spiritual/artistic conversations that mean absolutely nothing. I don't mean the innocent conversations that most young academics engage in when they've discovered the joy of hanging out with people of like mind for the first time in their life and so spend the night solving the world's problems
No, I'm talking about people who don't let trivial things like facts get in the way of an argument, or who talk about the deep artistic meaning of Meatloaf's lyrics, or somehow or other make the war in Afghanistan the soldiers' fault. They usually speak in sweeping generalities about topics they know nothing about and manage to make reference to chaos theory, existentialism, and any number of other intellectual-sounding academic pursuits in every sentence whether it's pertinent or not.
They are the painters who never picked up a paint brush, the writers who've never written a page of prose or a line of verse, and the actors and dancers who've yet to stand in front of an audience. But that doesn't prevent them from being experts in those fields or stop them from pontificating about what is lacking in them.
I don't talk about my spiritual beliefs because they're really no one's business but my own and I don't think anyone else would really be that interested. But neither of those considerations seems to have crossed a lot of people's minds. I've actually heard conversations being turned into boasting contests about who is more spiritual.
Invariably these are the conversations, or slight variations thereof, that I encounter the majority of time when I'm away from home. Finding someone – anybody – to have a decent conversation with has become nigh on impossible. And people wonder why I'm so content to hang out at home and read, or write.
I don't think of myself as a snob or an elitist, but if I am I don't apologise for it. I enjoy reading and thinking, and think consideration of another person's feelings is usually a good thing. But somehow these characteristics seem to be a drawback in most polite society today.
Is it too much too ask to be able to find someone to chat with about a book I've just read or to have an informed discussion about a topic in the news? I'd welcome someone who disagreed with me intelligently with open arms right about now over anybody else. It's getting quite depressing the lack of people to talk to anymore.
Think about it — when was the last time you had a real conversation?